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Australia’s Game of Thrones

2 minute read

In a leadership ballot on Sept. 14, Malcolm Turnbull toppled Tony Abbott to become leader of the conservative Liberal Party and the country’s fourth Prime Minister in two years, cementing Canberra’s reputation as the coup capital of the democratic world. Abbott blamed his premature exit on excessive media scrutiny and the country’s short, three-year election cycles, but no one seems to hold the top job for long.

Kevin Rudd won a landslide election in 2007 as leader of the center-left Labor Party, but his ratings collapsed three years later after the unpopular proposal of a tax on mining profits and the deferral of a carbon-trading scheme. He was ousted by Julia Gillard in June 2010.

Julia Gillard, Rudd’s deputy, asked him to either resign or hold a leadership election. Rudd chose to resign hours before a scheduled vote took place. But the country’s first female Prime Minister struggled to gain legitimacy and clung to power after August 2010 elections only by forming a minority government. By June 2013, Rudd beat her in a Labor Party leadership ballot to head the government once again.

Tony Abbott’s resurgent Liberal Party dispatched Rudd in the September 2013 elections, with Abbott promising to end the political instability that Australia had endured under Labor. But his harsh austerity measures proved unpopular, and Australia’s debt spiraled as the economy slowed to a crawl in 2015. His opposition to same-sex marriage and climate-change skepticism likely hastened his unseating.

Malcolm Turnbull, a former lawyer and journalist, had previously been outspoken about his support for more socially progressive policies. But after taking office on Sept. 15, he said people should not expect immediate changes on issues like gay rights and the environment and instead pledged to focus on the economy. Rival Labor MPs have criticized the Liberal leader for selling out his principles to win the post.

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Write to Naina Bajekal at naina.bajekal@time.com